September 24th 2016 was a great day for the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn won the 2016 Labour Leadership Election with an increased mandate – rising from 59.6% to 61.8% of the total vote, despite increased membership and some rather dubious actions by both the PLP and the Labour NEC. It has been a trying time, but Jeremy Corbyn supporters can’t help but feel vindicated by this result. We put out faith in the Labour Party, in Jeremy Corbyn, and in democracy, and it bore out.
Although for many, this is a period of jubilation, we should look forward to how we can move on past this Leadership crisis and start rebuilding the party. There are a number of things that we must do, both nationally and locally, if we are to be able to fight the Tories and bring Labour to election victory in 2020 (or earlier).
Reuniting the Labour Party
Our first step is to reunite the Labour Party. This unnecessary Leadership election has been divisive in many ways, with a lot of personal attacks from both sides. Comments made about Corbyn cannot be taken back, and it will be tense times as Owen Smith supporters decide whether or not they can unite behind Corbyn following his victory.
It is important to understand that there were many reasons why people chose to support Owen Smith. For many, Jeremy Corbyn represented a contentious leader that threatened to split the party, so it can be understood why they might favour the less divisive candidate, Owen Smith. In many ways, this Leadership election wasn’t about Jeremy Corbyn versus Owen Smith, but whether or not the Labour Party should have Jeremy Corbyn as its leader.
With the results bearing out that there was a majority of members who believe in Jeremy Corbyn, it’s time for Owen Smith voters to reconcile their differences with Corbyn and get behind him. The infighting and bickering is damaging the party, and the only winners are the Tories.
Nobody wants a split within Labour, but if people can’t get behind Jeremy Corbyn and support the Labour Party, then they might want to consider leaving it. Groups like Progress, Saving Labour, and Labour Tomorrow will have to decide which is the bigger threat – there may be little choice but to proscribe them if they are intent on spending more time fighting Corbyn than the Tories.
The Labour Party is supposed to be an open, inclusive, democratic socialist party – and that means that we should be able to put aside our differences to fight our mutual opponents. As of yet, Labour has been unable to do this because of elements within the party.
Inquest into the Anti-Democratic Processes of the Labour NEC
Whilst me must move on from the Labour Leadership contest, we must also learn from it’s mistakes. For many, this contest has been a negative event, as they have sought to get involved with the Labour Party, only to be disenfranchised for various reasons. Newer members have not only been confused over their right to vote for the Leadership, but many members have also been suspended or refused membership of the party, based on various claims.
With over 180,000 members believed to have been “purged” in this manner, this is a huge number of people and potential volunteers, campaigners, and activists to turn away to another party. If anything, the Labour Party will need these members to help make sure that we can bring the Labour message to the people.
As such, it is important that we look into these purged memberships as quickly as possible, else all resemblance of democracy within the Labour Party looks shallow and meaningless. Only through transparency, can we bring hope back to those who were purged by mistake, and confirm those who truly should have been removed from the party. How else is the party supposed to recruit new members, and voters, if the threat of dismissal hangs over their head like the Sword of Damocles?
These are just some of the steps that we should take to move on towards success following the 2016 Labour Leadership Election.
Labour needs to move on – to bring 21st century democracy and 21st century socialism to the public. We have the means to achieve this lofty goal – we just need to make sure that we have the will.
Christina Freeman – Village Ward Labour Party Member